Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under fire from Israel and the US after comparing Zionism to "a crime against humanity."
US Secretary of State John Kerry plans to make clear his disapproval when he meets Erdogan in Ankara later today, a US official told the Associated Press.
At the heart of the outcry are Erdogan's remarks to a UN conference in Vienna earlier this week, where he reportedly said:
"As with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it is inevitable that Islamophobia be considered a crime against humanity."
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu last night called the comment a "dark and mendacious statement, the likes of which we thought had passed from the world."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who was present when Erdogan made his remarks, said they were "hurtful and divisive," and a contradiction of UN principles.
Washington agreed. One unnamed US official told Reuters that Erdogan's comparison was "particularly offensive" and would have "a corrosive effect" on Turkey's international relations.
"I am sure the secretary will be very clear about how dismayed we were to hear it," the official said, as Kerry prepared to depart for Turkey.
The controversy risks overshadowing Kerry's first visit to the country, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The trip was supposed to focus on the crisis in Syria, which the US hopes its NATO ally Turkey can play a key role in resolving.
But the tense relations between Turkey and Israel, which have steadily worsened ever since Israeli marines killed nine Turkish activists as they attempted to stop aid ships breaking the blockade on Gaza in May 2010, have hampered US efforts to make Turkey a key peacemaker in the Middle East, Reuters said.
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